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US Affluents Seek Deals, Not Luxuries

Demographic turns to digital to save money and time

By one popular measure of affluence—a minimum annual household income of $100,000—affluents comprise one-fifth of all US households. But few of those classified as affluents match the popular stereotypes of the rich—or spend their money as if they did—according to a new eMarketer report, “Affluents in the US: How They Behave as Consumers (and Matter to Marketers).”

For many US affluents, big-ticket luxury purchases are few. Concentrated in metro areas where the cost of living is high, affluents often feel constrained in their spending and are on the lookout for bargains in their day-to-day shopping. They leverage their above-average ownership of digital devices to do research and compare prices to ensure they get the most for their money. Affluents are also short on time and willing to spend money to save it. For this demographic, convenience is itself an important luxury.

As with nonaffluents, the biggest chunks of affluents’ spending go toward shelter and food. Looking at data from the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, one sees the same general patterns of spending for affluents and nonaffluents—the difference being that affluents buy more of everything.

The ordinariness of much affluents’ purchasing is reflected in their choice of stores. In March 2013 polling by Shullman Research Center, among those in the $250,000-plus bracket, 47% reported shopping at Wal-Mart in the previous 12 months; 36% cited Costco.

Intent on getting a good return on their outlays, affluents routinely perform due diligence before buying. A March 2013 survey of internet users by Parago, a rebate, incentives and engagement company, found 90% who earned $100,000 to $199,999 “almost always” conducted research for deals and best prices before shopping; 69% in the $200,000-plus bracket said the same. Among respondents who said they engaged in such research at least sometimes, most of the affluents said they did so by digital means.

Still, while affluents don’t want to overspend, they do not focus exclusively on low prices. Ipsos MediaCT’s July 2013 survey captured the mixture of attitudes that characterize many US affluents’ outlook on shopping. Barely one-third said they “usually buy brand-name packaged goods instead of generic or store brands.” At the same time, nearly three-quarters agreed with the statement, “Good value for the money is more important than price.” Affluents don’t want to squander money. But they have enough financial leeway to act on the insight that the cheapest item isn’t always the best bargain.

Affluents are also willing to pay for convenience. Since affluent households typically include multiple earners—and since their combined income often enables them to enjoy the leisure time they have in myriad ways—time is the luxury that really matters. A September 2013 report by McCann Truth Central, based on polling among the wealthiest 20% of populations in 21 global cities, identified time as “the most precious resource” for affluents—far outranking money. iProspect’s polling of US affluent influencers found majorities across generations willing “to spend money to save time.”


The full report, “Affluents in the US: How They Behave as Consumers (and Matter to Marketers),” also answers these key questions:

  • How many people in the US are affluent, and how truly affluent are they?
  • What is the profile of US affluents’ media usage and device ownership?
  • What are their attitudes about spending?
  • What role does digital play in US affluents’ consumer activity?
  • When they buy luxuries, how do affluents go about it?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


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